Skip to comments.Tyranny of Words (Catholic liturgy - NO vs. TLM)
Posted on 08/19/2007 6:41:43 AM PDT by maryz
Pope Benedict XVI. wrote that "active participation" means attentiveness first and foremost. He wrote that listening to the choir attentively constitutes such participation. Of course, there's also the Conga Line school of interpretation. Another issue is the lack of silence in the Novus Ordo practice, the aim to pack as much as possible into the liturgy instead of it being celebrated for its own sake. Lastly, the loss of form - a hymn being a hymn - has been a major problem. I was pleasantly surprised to have found the following article.
Godfried Danneels is the archbishop of Brussels. He's considered liberal-to-moderate, used to teach liturgy. A couple of months ago, he gave a talk at Boston College. America Magazine, the liberal Jesuit publication, published excerpts, from which I'm excerpting a part that I wholly agree with, I've been beating the same drum (figuratively, as opposed to Life Teen :-P) What he says strikes me as very much the opposite of the Trautman approach. *marking day in calendar...."liked something in America Magazine"*
A Tyranny of Words
A major factor in all of this is silence. The liturgy of Vatican II provides for periods of silence, but in practice silence is not given much of a chance. The liturgy is turned into an unstoppable succession of words that leave no time for interiorization.
Without introducing rhetorical gesticulations and building in theatricality, one can still argue that the tongue and the ear are frequently the only human organs in use during the liturgy. How many celebrants consider the homily to be the climax of the liturgy and the barometer of the celebration? How many have the feeling that the celebration is more or less over after the Liturgy of the Word?
Too much attention is also given to the intellectual approach to the liturgy. Imagination, affect, emotion and, properly understood, aesthetics are not given enough room, and the liturgy thereby fails to reach many of those who participate in it because they are either non-intellectual types or because they do not consider such things to be nourishing for their lives.
Liturgy is neither the time nor the place for catechesis. Of course, it has excellent catechetical value, but it is not there to replace the various catechetical moments in the life of the Christian. Such moments require their own time. Liturgy belongs to the order of the playful. The uniqueness of play is that one plays for the sake of playing. Liturgys end is in itself.
Nor should liturgy be used as a means for disseminating information, no matter how essential that information might be. It should not be forced to serve as an easy way to notify the participants about this, that and the other thing. One does not attend the liturgy on Mission Sunday in order to learn something about this or that mission territory. One comes to the liturgy to reflect on and integrate ones mission from Christ to go out to all nations. Liturgy ought not to serve as a warm-up for another activity, even a church activity. While it can indeed happen that one departs from the liturgy with a greater sense of engagement, with faith and love that inform and inspire ones actions, liturgy is not a meeting but a celebration.
. . .
The eye is the most active of the senses. In the liturgy nowadays, however, it tends to be somewhat undervalued. **"The visual age is over", the liturgical director of the diocese said. I thought, "No ****". There is a lot to hear but little to see. At one time the situation was reversed; the verbal dimension was not understood, the visual dimension was pushed to the fore. Certain secondary liturgical gestures, such as the elevation of the bread and wine at the consecration, are a consequence of this fact. Even eucharistic worship outside of Mass has its roots here.
. . .
It is of great importance that different text genres should be respected: a reading is not a prayer, a hymn is not a psalm, a song is not an admonition, nor is a homily a set of announcements. *Else we have the "heresy of formlessness."* Each of these genres requires its own oral treatment. Furthermore, it is clear that neither rhetoric nor theatricality nor pathos has a part in the liturgy. Reading is not acting; it is allowing oneself to be the humble instrument of a word that comes from beyond. The exaggerated impact of the personal individuality of the man or woman who reads can kill the liturgy and eliminate its harmonics.
. . .
Last, the sense of smell is almost completely unused in the liturgy. It is not to our advantage that the use of incense has been pushed aside into the domain of superfluity and hindrance.
. . .
The life of the Christian is built on cultus and caritas. Liturgy does not coincide with life; rather, it has a dialectical relationship with life. Sunday is not Monday, nor vice versa. What we do throughout the week in a varied and diluted way we also do in the liturgy but in a more concentrated and purified fashion: we live for God and for others.
Liturgy, however, is not only a representation of human life. Liturgy symbolizes and makes present, first, the mysteries of salvation, the words and deeds of Christ, and also our deeds insofar as they are reflected, purified and redeemed in Christ. His mysteriesmade present to us in the liturgyare our archetypes. This Christological determination of our lives in the liturgy is of the essence.
The liturgy is not a feast we have laid out for ourselves, according to our own personal preferences. It is Gods feast. We attend at Gods invitation.
I thought you’d like this!
I meant to put “(Catholic liturgy - NO vs. TLM)” after the title. Could you do this please, if you have a chance?
I think there’s a lot in this piece you’d appreciate!
Thanks! That was fast! :)
maryz, thanks for the ping! Excellent article!
Still nothing said in my diocese, except one priest who has written several articles, on the diocesan website, about how we have a priest shortage and some people just don’t ‘get it’. (I e-mailed him previously - I wonder if I’m one of those people he’s talking about?) Also, my parish priest sent an e-mail that he has not received a ‘directive’ from the bishop regarding a Latin mass and that there wasn’t going to be any in our diocese ‘as far as he knows’. No encouragement there!
Anyway - that’s the latest. Thanks again for the excellent article! Our church is noisy before and after mass. There is no color. It is bland and plain. The tabernacle is bland and plain. Not a suitable throne for our King at all. There is rarely incense. I guess I just keep hoping and praying. I take heart from favorable reports from other places in the country and hope that has an influence here! :-)
Like the woman on Fr. Z's blog who said she wrote a letter to her pastor requesting a TLM, so he couldn't say he hadn't gotten any requests -- he'd have to at least say he'd gotten a request from one nut! And what's this with a "directive" from the bishop? Didn't he read the MP? ;-)
I haven't heard anything definite around here either -- I gather there's some movement, but it's sort of sub rosa for time being, at least until September 14, since it's not exactly encouraged by the cardinal!
Great article. I especially like the part about the senses.
Thanks for the ping! Yes, there is.
I was just thinking about some of these issues today, after Sunday mass. I live in a diocese where we recently received a very firm “NO” on the celebration of the TLM, including the forbidding of priests to say it as their private mass (fortunately, I think that’s unenforceable). I noticed the practice of the bishop who did this, and while he’s pretty orthodox in many ways, his mass is a prime example of all the points above.
He’s an inveterate ad-libber, obviously feeling that what it says in the actual text isn’t enough, he occasionally leaves parts out (I assume he does this intentionally), and he loves the candidate-for-an-Oscar reading style.
What this means to me is that even the priests themselves, even the most ardent defenders of the NO, such as our bishop, realize there is something lacking there.
They know the language is flat and dull (although our bishop has actually supported Trautperson’s criticism of the new translation coming out this fall as too “high flown” for the average drooling idiot - er, sorry, that would be parishioner - in the pew to understand). So they try to compensate.
They know that the scatter-shot effect of the unfocused, abbreviated readings means that most of the hearers turn their ears off, so they attempt to add drama in hopes that it will compensate and capture the attention of the listeners.
And the fact that there are numerous different canons and numerous different options for just about everything in the NO gives them the feeling that, after all, anything is permitted, and it’s really all about putting on a personal show based on their own choices and taste (or lack thereof).
I realized that one of the things that is most disturbing to them about the TLM is that it is an exact reversal of all these things, and they see it not simply as a challenge to the NO in general, but to the “personal mass” they have constructed individually within the NO.
I had never seen it from that angle before, but I think you've really hit on something! I had just vaguely assumed that it was the vernacular that just made it too easy to freelance. But I see now I was thinking of means and not ends!
different options for just about everything in the NO gives them the feeling that, after all, anything is permitted
With some justification. I can't keep up with it all myself, and sometimes I find myself wondering "Is that really part of the Mass or is it made up on the spot?" (I refuse to use those Missalettes to follow something in my native tongue!)
not simply as a challenge to the NO in general, but to the personal mass they have constructed individually within the NO.
Yes! I do believe you've hit on something here. People get very attached to what they've "created." (When I taught sections of comp as a TA in grad school, one of the hardest -- and most important -- things to get across was that when I criticized their writing, I wasn't judging them, their hearts, their souls, their personhood.) What's that in Shakespeare? "A poor thing, but mine own." Only some of them seem to think "a wond'rous thing, and all mine own!"
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I have seen this done in fact as opposed to only in thought. There is a priest I know who devotes tremendous energy to the readings to the point of using Bibles distributed during Mass to go through a long homily dealing with what the readings convey. The rest of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, is almost an afterthought.
People follow mindlessly when they don’t know what alternatives there are. Right now, on EWTN, the routine Sunday N.O. Mass is one of the most solemn Masses you can ever see. Tell your “pew mates” to watch one! And then, wait for the Masses on the TLM coming on September 14.
It took 40 years to get here from there. Pope Benedict is backed by the Holy Spirit. That is how the situation should be.
Stand up, sit down, kneel down, stand up........turn around shake hands, kneel down again, stand up......it just gets to me.
It's not so much all the words which I find unsettling as the continual need to change body posture. I find that far more disturbing to contemplative prayer.
One time at a daily Novus Ordo Mass I decided that I'd had enough and resolved to kneel all the way from the Sanctus to Holy Communion. There were few people in the Church and as I was way out the back, I figured it was no big deal. However, some woman saw me and at the "sign of peace" she walked halfway across the Church, put her hand on my arm and with a very sad expression on her face said "you obviously have some great sorrows or difficulties in your life!".
God bless her for her charity but apparently kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament now makes some people think you're a suicidal maniac.
That is extreme -- and I'm the one who complained on another thread that the OT readings were not so valuable as they might be to people who have no background in the story and its significance. An American Mother said her pastor gives wonderful sermons, explicating the relationships between the Old and New Testament readings, but she did not give the impression that the rest of the Mass was just a footnote or something to him.
LOL! And I mean that literally!
Oh, BTW, you left out bowing! ;-)
The Mass is central in our parish -- I should have mentioned that the pastor or the 2 parochial vicars (one of whom preached today - our young black priest, a/k/a "Father Krunk") almost always work the Eucharist into the homily. Today he had his hands full with the Gospel, which is a tough one ("this is a hard saying - who can bear it?") so he mentioned neither the OT reading (Jeremiah and the cistern) nor the Eucharist. He did however mention the NT lesson - Paul's "cloud of witnesses" and "running the race with our eyes on Christ Jesus" in the context of the Gospel "I come not to bring peace but a sword." (yeah, that's KJV but the lectionary is awful in some spots, and that's one of them. The Greek is macaira - "a sword" and the Vulgate Latin is gladius - exactly the same.) "I come not to bring peace but division" is just clunky.
Man, she is lucky she didn’t try that with me. Whatever I decided to do on the spur of the moment, it wouldn’t have been pretty! The nicest thing I can think of is giving her a really sad look right back and saying, “Well, I think we all need to make reparation for the disrespect shown to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament!” But “Have you lost your cotton-pickin’ mind!?!?” right in the middle of church might have been what popped out . . . .
I admit I sometimes "hear" a translation I like, rather than the NAB translation that's read. ;-)
So all your priests are great, not just the pastor? I'm sure you appreciate that!
Of course, our rector has been here for 20 years and is a well-known diocesan figure (he used to be Vicar-General) so it makes sense that he would get good help!
LOL! That's it!
I think the NO mass puts the focus much more on the priest himself than the TLM did. Obviously, there have always been some priests who celebrate more reverently than others, or whose Latin is better, etc., and therefore are preferred by the faithful. But now our focus is Father's personality and how he shapes the mass to fit that personality, how it becomes his vehicle for self-expression; and to not like this approach is to reject him in a very personal way, as far as he's concerned.
Oh, it’s definitely possible to celebrate the NO better than it is usually celebrated - using the Roman canon, not ad-libbing, taking care with the gestures, etc.
But much of the ritual aspect is missing from the NO and just as some priests try to add their own personality to the mass, others try to add a level of ritual to the NO.
There are virtually no actual rubrics in the NO for things which, in the old mass, were carefully dictated (gestures, in particular). We have one priest who celebrates very carefully - using the hand positions and gestures from the TLM. But there is very little in the NO that is prescribed or proscribed in writing.
Furthermore, the rearrangement of the parts has led to a change in emphasis. The addition of a third reading does make it very easy to regard the “liturgy of the word” part as more important than anything else. Furthermore, the conscious and intentional removal of the sets of three from gestures, words, etc. left the ritual “unbalanced” and certainly very different in pace and rhythm from the TLM. (My suspicion is that this was done by the zealot modernists of VatII to horizontalize and desacralize the Mass, because 3 is traditionally a sacred number and Three is particularly significant to Christians.)
So while it can certainly be celebrated better, I think it has some fundamental flaws. I suspect that one of the hopes of BXVI was that the two forms would interact in such a way that there would eventually be momentum to revise the NO and deal with some of these problems.
...I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but for a lot of parishioners, that would be a long time to kneel, and a lot of very sore knees...
Daneels turns 75 next June 4th. :-)
Thanks for the ping! Odd article - Danneels is a Paul VI appointee who is probably one of those most responsible for the collapse of the Church in Europe, and all of a sudden he’s surfacing with this article, which seems to indicate an entirely different understanding.
He begins with an extremely defensive posture on the NO (and I think we’re going to see a lot of clergy and “scholars” defending the NO tooth and nail just because they were involved in developing or enforcing it), and then moves to identifyng just about every one of its shortcomings. Of course, he seems to feel that these would be corrected by just celebrating it “better,” although oddly enough, he also mentions some problems that are structural and can only be improved by revising the form radically - or going back to the Tridentine Rite.
Quite mystifying, given his track record.
Or, as one comment on Fr. Z's blog reads:
Never before, to my knowledge, has he made a statement sympathetic to a traditional understanding of liturgy like the one above. My guess is hes feeling the Benedictine wind biting at his nose.
My other guess? Its six years before he turns 80. . .
We shall have to watch his future progress with interest! ;-)
See my post #28!
Yes -- it sounds like he's trying, but he can't quite spit it out!
I hadn’t considered that! I didn’t realize he was so “young,” frankly. The Paul VI boy bishops really wreaked havoc on the Church.